Burning Palestine

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Chapel, University of Bethlehem

Burning Palestine

August 14th, 2013 // 8:26 PM

It keeps getting hotter and hotter, a little bit each day. I have always been a fan of the heat, especially when given a choice between summer heat and winter chill, but I have also never before tried to stay productive in such lazy-summer, nap inducing temperatures. Luckily, being a desert climate, it gets relatively cool here in the evenings. There is only about one month remaining in my stay here, and I can’t believe the time has passed so quickly. The past two weeks have been a blur – starting two new courses at the university, conducting research for my graduate studies, trying to get things settled for repainting the signboard in manger square, and trying to get other projects off the ground. This would be a lot normally, but doing this under Palestine’s August sun has been quite the challenge.

As a refresher, I spent an evening earlier this week with friends who were kind enough to share another wonderful, home cooked meal of Maqlube (literally meaning “upside down” for the way the dish of rice and chicken or lamb is flipped over onto a plate before serving). The dinner was followed by coffee, tea and dessert, while listening to amazing stories about various experiences growing up in Palestine, the most captivating coming from my friend’s mother, a young woman during the first intifada. It is evenings such as these which bring me back to myself, and what I am really doing here in Bethlehem. The stress of homework, research, and projects all fall away in the face of such a surreal-reality. “We were children who were forced to become men and women overnight,” she said. “As important as they [our actions] were, those of us who lived through it … we don’t want that for our children. The best way for them to fight for our freedom is through their education. They will go out into the world and show who we – the Palestinians – are.” And they will come back and build Palestine. Hearing her speak, this incredible women, who (just as an example) would sew Palestinian flags during the resistance – illegal and punished through imprisonment during the first intifada – I thought of Rafeef Ziadah in her poem, “We Teach Life, Sir” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKucPh9xHtM)

It’s very difficult to not feel the pressure of the sun above and the pressure of the walls around, especially now with the “peace talks,” which appear to mask further land confiscations for settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Yesterday’s release of 26 prisoners is bittersweet. Many Palestinians are not blind to this “benevolent” strategy used to appease not the Palestinians, but rather the remotely-cognisant international community, and yet another means of masking Israel’s ongoing transgressions in any peace proceedings. But just like at the end of the day, when the sun recedes and a cool breeze sneaks through the open window, the lingering hope remains that there will be an end to the sweltering heat, and that dusk is just a sunset away.

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